BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Thursday could be a “big day” for SpaceX.
SpaceX has teased that a key test is planned Thursday at its Boca Chica-based Starbase launch facility in Cameron County.
Speaking at the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual Commercial Space Transportation conference in Washington, D.C., SpaceX president & COO Gwynne Shotwell took the seat on stage for an interview before the assembled crowd on Wednesday.
Among the attendees was CNBC space industry correspondent Michael Sheetz, who live-tweeted the moment and quoted Shotwell as saying, “Tomorrow is a big day for us.”
The “big day” on Thursday is how Shotwell summarized the company’s plans to fire all 33 of Starship’s Super Heavy booster engines simultaneously in a static fire test, the latest test toward the goal of a suborbital launch, possibly as soon as March.
However, one “big day” after another have been delayed as SpaceX awaits FAA authorization for what would become South Texas’ first commercial space launch. Meanwhile, the company has been developing Starship through a series of tests, culminating in a toweringly massive rocket awaiting its chance to fly.
Until that moment, the Rio Grande Valley’s entry into the commercial space industry will remain firmly terrestrial–even as commercial space flights continue to increase under the FAA’s oversight.
“The commercial space industry is growing rapidly,” the Federal Aviation Administration stated Wednesday, citing a sharp increase in FAA-licensed launches over the past decade.
In 2011, only one rocket launched under a commercial FAA license. Last year, a record 79 commercial space flights were authorized and launched, according to the FAA, the agency tasked with ensuring “these space operations are safe for the public and are efficiently integrated into the national airspace system.”
“As the space economy continues to expand with new research, business and space tourism opportunities, more commercial rockets will launch from across the U.S.,” the FAA stated. “These missions will carry payloads and humans above, around and beyond the Earth.”
Wednesday’s comments by Shotwell follow tweets by Musk from over the weekend, in which he indicated an FAA-approved launch of Starship could happen in March “[if] remaining tests go well”. He followed that tweet with a caveat: “Success is far from certain, but excitement is guaranteed.”